Why Churches Should Minister to Returning Cross-Cultural Workers

GO therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:18-20


The idea of “GO” is heavily stressed within many churches, as it should be. We as Christians should absolutely be about sending and going so that all the world may know the name of Jesus- “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But what do we do when those who went, return?

All too often it seems as if those returning are met with a pat on the back and a “we’re glad you’re home,” but nothing more. We tend to forget that going from one culture to another isn’t always easy. We forget that hard things may have happened on the field. So rather than letting the returning cross-cultural worker go unnoticed, as a church let’s join hands with them and say, “We are here for you and we really care.”

Here are three reasons why churches should minister to returning missionaries:

  1. The church is a family. We are brothers and sisters and because of that we should love one another. What better way to love a family member than invite them over, talk, and support them? As one is welcomed back into their home community, don’t be afraid to really dig into the hard stuff and get to re-know that person, or know them for the first time! More than likely, everyone has changed in some ways, so it may take some work getting acquainted with one another again.

  2. To promote health and unity within the church. Throughout the New Testament, we see the theme of unity among believers (Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:3). As a cross-cultural worker returns home, there is potential for a hard transition, which opens an opportunity for the church to come alongside that person and love on them. Often times, cross-cultural workers tend to question the American church when they return. They are disoriented by the way things are and how the church organizes worship and programs. Reminding one another of the gospel is a great way to unite the church and help address the questions people have. As someone is hurting, make sure to ask them questions, show hospitality, and include them. For a few ideas of questions to ask, click here.

  3. It is a ministry opportunity. When we send a brother or sister overseas, we as the church partner with them in support through prayer, funding, and continued communication as they share the gospel with people in another country. Upon return, the ministry doesn’t stop, it just changes. Rather than funding, the church can give emotional support to the person returning. The church can act as a safe haven for people readjusting to daily life in their home culture. Ministering to returning cross-cultural workers is much needed in this day and age as we send more and more people abroad. Rather than ending the support at sending, let’s have a holistic way of viewing reaching the nations and continue to partner with the missionary when they return home.

As the body of Christ, let’s join together to love our brothers and sisters. Living in another country can be difficult, and returning to one’s home culture can be challenging. I remember when I lived abroad, I had the opportunity to meet with a member care counselor. This was one of the greatest things that could have happened during my time overseas. It allowed me to process through questions or situations, and it allowed me to speak with someone who truly wanted to listen.

When I returned home, it was a different story. I was not welcomed back into my home small group, which broke my heart. I felt as if I no longer belonged anywhere. I no longer fit in with the culture around me, and I felt odd. For months I struggled with confusion and anxiety, with no words to express what was happening. Looking back, I realize that I was experiencing Reverse Culture Shock. Through that season, it would have been helpful to have someone walk through it with me. Someone who was not afraid to ask tough questions and really dig into what was going on. I was hurting in a way I had never experienced and I know I am not alone in this feeling. Now that I am on the other side, it is my hope and desire to help people see that we can love on our family members whom we sent out as missionaries. Not only when they leave, but also when they return. So, rather than giving a pat on the back, how can we bring people into community and show them that we care? How can we as a church partner with our family and aid in their transition?

Let’s start a conversation of how we can minister to returning missionaries within our churches. What are your thoughts? How is your church actively ministering in this way? I’d love to hear from you! Post your comments below or email us at globallynoted@gmail.com


Samantha Couick

Samantha CouickComment